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The Ultimate Guide to Film Pitch Decks (Plus Examples!)

So, you need to make a film pitch deck. We've got everything you need to build the perfect deck from the ground up, plus lots of examples to inspire your vision.

January 25, 2021

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Taking a film project from script to screen requires so much more than just a great idea. Whether you are applying for a grant, pitching your film to investors, or simply sharing your vision with collaborators, a film pitch deck is an invaluable tool to supplement your screenplay and really round out your film’s creative development. In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about film pitch decks — what are they, why they’re important, and a step-by-step guide on how to make yours really stand out. 

What is a film pitch deck?

As Maria von Trapp says in The Sound of Music, let’s start at the very beginning! The easiest way to think of a film pitch deck is as a visual supplement to your screenplay. While your script shows people exactly what you are creating, the pitch deck shows them how, who, and why you are making this film. The deck allows you to delve into the specifics of style, tone, visual inspiration, casting, location, and crew. 

A good pitch deck should leave the reader feeling like they know exactly what your film will look and feel like, and that they have the confidence in your vision and team to pull it off.

A good pitch deck should leave the reader feeling like they know exactly what your film will look and feel like, and that they have the confidence in your vision and team to pull it off. While it can take many shapes, a standard film pitch deck is formatted as a series of slides and is often shared as an exported PDF. Online, interactive, and web-based decks are also becoming more popular, though having a simple PDF version for easy sharing is usually a good idea.

When should I make a pitch deck?

Pitch decks are meant to be shared as a supplement to a screenplay, so the right time to make one is after you have a final version of your script. While pitch decks are made for sharing, you shouldn’t discount the value of making one for your own creative practice as well. Even if you have no concrete plans to pitch for investment or apply to a grant, creating a pitch deck forces you to think through some of the creative problems you are going to face when you get into pre-production. Questions about style, tone, camera techniques, visual inspiration, locations, sound, and editing are going to come up eventually, and the more you can hone your vision in these early stages the better off you’ll be in the long run. 

For your collaborators and crew (cinematographer, gaffer, or production designer), a pitch deck is a valuable insight into the creative direction of the project and will make the process of pre-production and production infinitely easier.

How to make a pitch deck

There are an abundance of resources available for building a pitch deck — and your tool certainly does not need to be specific for filmmakers. Any sort of slide or presentation software will work just fine — Powerpoint, Keynote, and Google Slides are all great options. You can create individual slides in Photoshop if you like, or use your favorite online software to get started. For a fully interactive online experience, you can use Spotlight by Shift.

Do you work in advertising or commercial production?  Try Spotlight today for your pitch decks!

 
At its base level, the tool you select should allow you to manipulate things like background images, photo galleries, unique text blocks, and links out to external pages. More sophisticated pitch deck tools may allow you to embed videos and GIFs, or have the reader interact with elements on your page, but again a simple exported PDF is a good place to start. 

Let’s dive in! 

Now that we know what we’re making, let’s dive into the specifics of how to make the ultimate pitch deck for your film project. 

Title Page
You know that a screenplay needs a killer opening scene. In the same way, a pitch deck needs a killer title page. This is the first thing people will see, and may be the thing that compels them to keep reading or close the deck altogether. It’s a fine balancing act between sharing enough information without sharing too much. 

 

You know that a screenplay needs a killer opening scene. In the same way, a pitch deck needs a killer title page. This is the first thing people will see, and may be the thing that compels them to keep reading or close the deck altogether.

It seems simple enough -- the only real information this page needs to include is the film’s title, and maybe your name. But a good title page will also convey the film’s tone and give the reader a teaser into what might come next. An expressive background image and a well-placed photo can go a long way to get people interested in reading more. And since text is really the only thing of substance on this page, picking the right font is hugely important. Is your film more of a “hand-written in a notebook” font, or a big, bold “old Hollywood lights” font? If you could boil your entire film down to just one or two stylistic choices, they should appear here on the title page. 

Check out some of our favorite pitch deck title pages below. Can you tell what kind of films these might end up being just by looking at this one page?

Title Page Image

Top left, clockwise: "Dunked" by John Bickerstaff, "Phantom War" by Scott Jesschke, "In Bed" by Young Park, "Father Figurine" by Matt Kazman 

Pages 2-4: Logline, Synopsis, Theme

Once we get past the title page, the first few pages of the pitch deck should be informational. Some readers (especially someone like a financial investor) may very well look at a pitch deck before deciding whether or not to dive in and read the entire screenplay. 

While you can’t give all the details and nuance of your script here in the deck, you should give your reader an overview of the film. These first few pages can include your film’s logline, a short synopsis of the plot, and the narrative themes dealt with in the story. Some filmmakers choose to include a short excerpt of the screenplay’s opening scene, but be wary of too much text. 

More than anything, the pitch deck is a visual medium and the reader should never feel like they are getting lost in a wall of text or dialogue.

More than anything, the pitch deck is a visual medium and the reader should never feel like they are getting lost in a wall of text or dialogue. More ideas for these first few pages could be character introductions, delving into an important relationship in the film, or setting the scene for a unique time, place, and location.

Here are some impactful synopsis and theme pages from some of our favorite decks:

Theme Image 2

Top left, clockwise: "Cosmic Fling" by Jonathan Langager, "Wish Upon a Disco Ball" by Anabel Inigo, "Last Human" by Ian Wittenber, "Cents" by Sam Davis

Pages 5-8: Execution and Style

Now that we know a little bit about the story, the themes, and the characters being explored, it’s time to delve into the how. These middle pages of the deck are all about execution and style, how you will actually get from words on the page to images on the screen — and what those images on the screen might look like. 

These middle pages of the deck are all about execution and style, how you will actually get from words on the page to images on the screen — and what those images on the screen might look like. 

These slides could include information about the type of lighting you’ll be using, specific camera movements, casting and location inspiration, or unique editing techniques. Some filmmakers include notes on sound and music choices, or costume and production design inspiration. This is where we can really begin to visualize the film, rather than just imagining the story in our heads. This is a good place to include links out to video examples, if you feel those would be helpful in communicating your vision. 

The bottom line of this section is: how are you as the filmmaker going to make the film unique, and what techniques will you use to achieve that vision? Check out some of our favorite execution and style pages below, which delve into a variety of specific techniques from the filmmakers:

Execution Image

Top left, clockwise: "Baggage" by Tim Hendrix, "Notes" by Jared Wardle, "In the Dark" by Ramesh Iyer

Pages 9-10: Mood Board/Tone

Since filmmaking is a fundamentally visual medium, some might argue that your film’s mood board is the most impactful part of the pitch deck. In fact, some filmmakers submit ONLY a mood board instead of a full deck, because they feel it completely communicates their style and vision for the film. 

You’ve had your chance to tell us all about your story, style, and execution in the previous pages — now it’s time to see it.

You’ve heard of “show, don’t tell” in screenwriting — the mood board is your “show, don’t tell” in the pitch deck. In these slides, you want to include as many images as you can that communicate the tone of your film, without using text or words to describe what we are seeing. You’ve had your chance to tell us all about your story, style, and execution in the previous pages — now it’s time to see it. You can pull frames from films or TV shows, still images from magazines or websites, or any other source you can find for inspiration. The end result should be a few pages absolutely full of images, the culmination of which must communicate the visual style, mood, and tone of your film. You can certainly use some of these images in earlier slides to help describe specific techniques (for example, a specific type of lighting or a unique camera angle), but in seeing them all together in one place the visual style should be undeniable. 

The mood board is a purely creative exercise, and there aren’t many “rules” as to what makes a good one. Your selection and arrangement of photos is completely up to you, with the end result being a 100% visual communication of your unique vision. 

Here are some of our favorite mood boards, which clearly communicate a tone and artistic style for each film: 

Mood Board Image 2

Top left, clockwise: "Father Figurine" by Matt Kazman, "Alice in Somnia" by Bree Doehring, "The Sleepover" by Gregory Bayne, "Sons of Thunder" by Chris Neal

Pages 11-12: About/Team

We’ve reached the end of the pitch deck, where it's time to learn a little bit more about you as a filmmaker and the team you’ve decided to bring on board. These pages should not be very long, and should serve to give us a general overview of the people behind the vision and the execution of the film. 

An “About Me” statement will help personalize the project, and give the reader insight into not only who you are as a creative, but why you are the right person to tell this story.

An “About Me” statement will help personalize the project, and give the reader insight into not only who you are as a creative, but why you are the right person to tell this story. Short blurbs highlighting your key crew can also be effective, to give the reader confidence that you have the talent and the expertise in your corner to pull off the project. Here at the end of the deck we’re already sold on the idea, now we just need to be sold on you and your team.

About Us Image

Top left, clockwise: "IO" by Andrew Reid, "Gwafi" by Peter Rosati, "Wish Upon a Disco Ball" by Anabel Inigo, "The Sleepover" by Gregory Bayne 

Helpful tips

We’ve covered the step-by-step basics of creating your pitch deck from the ground up, but here are some additional things to keep in mind to truly take your deck to the next level. 

One size does NOT fit all 

As each film project is unique, so should be each pitch deck. No two films are created the same, and your pitch deck needs to reflect your project, whatever that may look like. Are music and editing not important to your film? Don’t include them in the deck! Are you working with puppets? Stop motion animation? A professional dance crew? Black and white film? Tell us about it, and tell us about why it’s important. At the end of the day, your pitch deck serves to help the reader understand the full scope of your film project, and that varies wildly from deck to deck and filmmaker to filmmaker. 

Less is more

While of course you want to communicate as much as you can about the vision and direction of your film, be wary to not go overboard in the pitch deck. For a 10-page short film, a 30+ page pitch deck is probably too much.

Be thorough, but don’t overshare. Being careful about what you include shows that you know what you want, and you know how to communicate that vision clearly and succinctly. 

Be thorough, but don’t overshare. Being careful about what you include shows that you know what you want, and you know how to communicate that vision clearly and succinctly. 

Communicating a vision

The best pitch decks know exactly what they are, and what they are not. As a filmmaker, your job is to have a clear idea of what you want and to communicate that idea to your investors, your collaborators, your crew, and eventually your audience. There should be no “maybe”, no “hopefully”, no “probably” — communicate exactly what you envision, and communicate with confidence. Concessions and compromises will always need to be made in the production of a film, but your pitch deck is not the place for half measures. 

Example pitch decks

Click the image below to download PDF files of some of our favorite complete pitch decks to use as a template for your own work. Note how they are all different, and find inspiration in the ones that will best serve the vision for your film: 

CTA_Pitch_Decks_FINAL


Conclusion

Creating a pitch deck is a true art form, one that filmmakers continue to hone and perfect throughout their careers. Each deck has its own style, its own life, and its own specific purpose in the process of your film production. Take inspiration where you can, but don’t forget to add something of yourself in each deck you make. Happy pitching!

Grace Amodeo is a Content Marketing Manager at Shift, where she oversees the annual Shift Creative Fund grant program. She is a graduate of Emerson College, where she studied film with a concentration in directing narrative fiction. Grace lives in Los Angeles.
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